Local nonprofit takes "Camp Healing" to children in Uvalde

Uvalde Camp healing art
Reggie Daniels
Posted at 1:05 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-14 09:08:51-04

UVALDE, Texas. - A Texas community in healing is getting help from an unlikely place — Hampton Roads, Virginia.

In July, Peninsula nonprofit The HEB Foundation hosted a week-long event called "Camp Healing" for local children touched by or vulnerable to gun violence.

Founder Chanda Coston tells News 3 that while planning that event, a youth pastor contacted her from a church called Templo Cristiano/Tree City Church.

“I said, ‘Where are you calling from?’ She said, ‘Uvalde,’ and my heart sank because I knew immediately why she was calling," Coston told News 3 in a Zoom call. "She said, ‘People are doing some wonderful things here, but I really feel like our children need this.’”

In May, 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. The community is still recovering, even with the new school year just weeks away.

Coston says the church wanted to host a Camp Healing event — with fun activities, art projects and group talks with licensed professionals — before the kids went back to class.

camp healing uvalde.jpg

The response was a big one.

While Coston says Hampton Roads-area camps attract anywhere from a handful to around a dozen kids, the Uvalde camp that ran Friday and Saturday, August 12-13, has more than 60 children between the two days.

“Quite a few children were from Robb Elementary," Coston told News 3 from Texas on Saturday night. "Parents and children alike, suffering from separation anxiety. Lots of parents wanted to sit in for a bit because they just needed to get comfortable."

She also says she noticed many of the Robb students were sensitive to loud noises and overstimulation.

HEB and templo cristiano
The HEB Foundation joined volunteers with Templo Cristiano/Tree City Church in Uvalde, Texas on August 12-13 for Camp Healing. To keep the event as peaceful as possible for families suffering from trauma, pictures and video of the children who attended were not permitted.

Coston and her family founded The HEB Foundation in 2018 after her brother, Raghib Brooks, was shot and killed in Newport News. The organization specializes in outreach to kids and families who considered vulnerable to gun violence.

But in making the trip to Texas, she and her mother had never worked with trauma at this level.

“When I hear of one child being able to talk and get a breakthrough or to feel like it’s okay, then it’s worth it. Beautiful artwork they created, they were so proud of it. They all got a chance to talk about what they created and why they did," said Coston.

Coston tells News 3 the trip to Uvalde mostly came out of the organization's funds and everything she brought with her is staying behind in the hopes the church and others in the Uvalde community will hold healing camps on a regular basis.

For more information, including how to donate, click HERE.